Fundamental Fashions: the Cultural Politics of the Turban and the Levi’S

ABSTRACT - In the last decade an Islamic consumptionscape competing against the secular consumptionscape in every domain of life emerged in Turkey. Summer resorts, fashion shows, fitness and beauty centers, popular culture and entertainment products targeted specifically at the Islamists became common place. In this paper we explore one of the most visible sites of the Islamic consumption culture, Islamic fashion, and discuss the newly-emerged fashion style which mixes Islamic dressing codes with Western clothing patterns as an example of consumption fusion. We argue that today’s Islamic consumptionscape is characterized by pluralism and difference, and cannot be explained as either rejection of consumerism, capitalism and globalization or resistance to modernity. Constructing a modern Islamic identity within the local power network involves simultaneously negotiating multiple tensions both between the local and global and within the local itself, and increasingly finds its symbolic expression in the domain of consumption.


Ozlem Sandikci and Guliz Ger (2001) ,"Fundamental Fashions: the Cultural Politics of the Turban and the Levi’S", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 146-150.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Pages 146-150


Ozlem Sandikci, Bilkent University

Guliz Ger, Bilkent University


In the last decade an Islamic consumptionscape competing against the secular consumptionscape in every domain of life emerged in Turkey. Summer resorts, fashion shows, fitness and beauty centers, popular culture and entertainment products targeted specifically at the Islamists became common place. In this paper we explore one of the most visible sites of the Islamic consumption culture, Islamic fashion, and discuss the newly-emerged fashion style which mixes Islamic dressing codes with Western clothing patterns as an example of consumption fusion. We argue that today’s Islamic consumptionscape is characterized by pluralism and difference, and cannot be explained as either rejection of consumerism, capitalism and globalization or resistance to modernity. Constructing a modern Islamic identity within the local power network involves simultaneously negotiating multiple tensions both between the local and global and within the local itself, and increasingly finds its symbolic expression in the domain of consumption.

The December 2, 1999 issue of the Washington Post newspaper included an article with the following headline: "Spreading Faith Through Fashion: Turkish Chain Promotes Islamic Clothing." The article reorts a Turkish company which built a lucrative business in the last decade by marketing Islamic fashion: "Mustafa Karaduman is a profoundly pious Muslim who says he is spreading the faith through fashion. Karaduman owns Turkey’s largest Islamic-style clothing chain, Tekbir Giyim, which means "Allah is Great apparel." Stroking his neatly trimmed beard with one hand and fingering a string of worry beads with another, Karaduman explained during a recent interview at his flagship store here [Istanbul] that he is serving God by encouraging 'my sisters to dress in accordance with the teachings of the holy Koran. In so doing, Karaduman has built a multimillion-dollar clothing empire, with 600 outlets across Turkey and as far away as Sarajevo, Bosnia and Sydney" (Zaman 1999).

In the last decade Islamic-style clothing stores, Islamic fashion shows and Islamic fashion at large have become mainstream news in Turkey. Imitators of the Tekbir style have mushroomed, with 200 Islamic fashion companies now competing in an ever-expanding market to serve women who want to look fashionable yet fulfill the requirements of Islam. For many analysts, the emergence of fashion consciousness in the fundamentalist Islamic subculture along with the proliferation of hotels and summer resorts, fitness and beauty centers, popular culture and entertainment products such as books, newspapers, radio and television channels that specifically target at the religious people are the indicators of a rapidly developing Islamic market and consumption culture within a predominantly Muslim but officially secular country (Bilici 2000; Bulut 1995; +zdnr 1994). In this paper we discuss Islamic fashion as an example of consumption fusion by exploring the daily practices as well as the underlying marketing context, and review the theoretical challenges they introduce into the existing notions of fashion, consumption and identity politics at the intersection of the local and the global.


After the establishment of the republic in 1923, Turkey became the only predominantly Muslim yet secular state in the world. At the core of the republican revolution was a change of values, which articulated itself through the conceptual opposition between "republican" (=modern, urban, secular, European) and "Islamic" (=backward, rural, religious, Ottoman). As Yalman notes "an entire generation was educated thinking religion to be some evil and irrational force of mere orthodoxy and blind tradition" (1969, p.47). Although the republican ideology aspired to create a civic religion through a variety of public rituals, it failed to attract especially the rural population and could not offer an alternative to Islam in providing identity and organizing principles of life (Tapper 1991). The introduction of multi-party politics in 1946, and first genuinely free elections in 1950, in which the right-wing Democrat Party gained governmental control, marked the beginnings of fundamental changes in regard to the place of Islam in Turkey. By the end of 1950s, under the pressure of severe economic problems, Democrat Party had taken a clearly religious character. Religious courses were brought back into education, government support for the Hajj was restored, shrines were reopened and training for religious officials was restarted. Large-scale migrations of 1960s and 1970s brought the geographically and socially peripheral Islamic revivalism into the center, into the heart of the big cities. After the military intervention of 1980, government attitudes toward Islam changed. A departure from strict traditional secularism was supported by the newly active tarikats (religious orders) and substantial Islamic funding from abroad, which was used to set up educational facilities as well as Islamic companies. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed the politicization of Islam and the increasing polarization between the Islamists and the secularists. For the secuarists, the emergence of fundamentalist Islamic Party as the winner of the 1994 municipal elections was the first sign of a much-feared possibility of an Islamic revolution in Turkey.

By the 1990s the turban has already become the symbol of political Islam as the distinction between traditional Islam and political Islam was revolving mainly around the issue of women’s head covering. Turkish military and the military-backed government perceived the turban as an indisputable symbol of religious militancy and strictly enforced the ban on religious-inspired clothing in schools and state offices. The frequent clashes between the turbaned women, protesting in front of the universities and state offices, and the police were extensively reported and debated in the media. The distinction between traditional and political Islam, which found its expression in the style of headdress, was representative of the contrasting background, education, public participation and militancy of the women who cover their hair. While many rural, elderly and traditional Muslim women covered their heads using a ba?÷rtnsn (a scarf that covers only the head not the neck), it was primarily the young, urban and educated women who wore the turban and the complementary long overcoat regardless of seasonal change.

The turban was not only the symbol of the political Islam; it also became the symbol of the cultural "Other" in Turkey. For the secular women, the turbaned woman was the threatening and frightening Other who sought to undermine the modern, urban and Western lifestyle, and hence, had to be resisted. The secular resistance, similarly, took a symbolic form. While the turbaned students were protesting in front of the universities, the secular women, wearing short skirts, bodies and tank-tops with Atatnrk (the founder of the republic) brooches pinned on their collars have been organizing expeditions to Atatnrk’s mausoleum in Ankara. Indeed, commodification has a central role in the shaping of both Islamic and secular identities in Turkey and transforming identity politics into a war over symbols. As Navaro-Yashin (forthcoming) comments Islamists and secularists alike differentiate their identities from each other by appropriating and consuming distinct objects and by creating particular consumption styles. Given the close association between identity and consumption, "the rise of Islamist movement in popularity and power is indissoluble from the development of specialized businesses for 'Islamic goods’ and the formation of market networks for believers" (Navaro-Yashin forthcoming).

The emerging Islamic market and consumption styles became increasing visible in the 1990s. Many factors contributed to such a development. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed rapid urbanization as well as a large-scale globalization and privatization of the Turkish economy. Multinational companies entered to the Turkish market, making available many goods that were previously foreign to Turks; shopping malls carrying global brands, entertainment centers, five-star hotels, foreign cuisine and fast food restaurants, bars and cafes quickly became commonplace. As television was privatized, new television channels flourished, changing the objective of broadcasting from education to entertainment. The advertising industry took a new shape, fully utilizing the new sources of publicity to increase the allure of the new products. An imminent result of these was the development of young urban professionals, highly Westernized in their values and perceiving consumption as a measure of happiness and success. However, it was not only the secular urbanites whose lives have changed. The government equally supported the small companies of the religious cities of Anatolia, motivating them to develop their businesses in order to compete with the secular bourgeoisie. Backed with the foreign capital, coming mainly from other Muslim countries as well as from Turkish workers living in various European countries, Islamic businesses were soon able to compete in almost all the sectors of the economy. The religious and conservative small scale, rural businesses grew into bigger companies in the cities by following the lgic of contemporary capitalism and marketing. These businesses built an alternative market for those who were religious and felt alienated from the westernized goods that dominated the consumption domain. As wealth accumulated among particular sections of the religious population, a bourgeoisie, conservative in values but avant-garde in consumption practices, started to emerge. As much as secular upper classes have developed a taste for bourgeois consumption, so have the religious upper classes.

In 1996 a summer resortCCaprice HotelClocated in the Aegean coast was opened. The hotel catered to religious people who felt uncomfortable in resorts to which secularists and tourists attended. Caprice Hotel quickly became, in the words of its owner, "the name of the alternative vacation." Separate swimming pools and beaches, and separate entertainment and leisure activities for men and women offered a safe heaven for religious upper classes who wanted to enjoy the summer yet remain true to the requirements of Islam. The responses to Caprice hotel, however, were mixed. Some Islamists condemned the hotel as they perceived it as a sign of degeneration and capitalization of Islam. Others defended the right of religious people to enjoy leisure activities as long as they are in line with the teachings of the Koran and the prophet.

A new style of consumption rapidly emerged in every domain of life. Today, surfing the Islamic web sites and chatting on the internet, kids of the Islamists listen to Turkish pop music, that "everyone else listens to" as one Islamist explains, and even heavy metal. But, unlike most secularists’ kids, they also listen to "Islamic pop" (popularized hymns, part hymn part pop modern arrangements played with Turkish and Western instruments) although it is less popular now than it was ten years ago. They shop with their parents in malls as well as in department stores built inside mosques and in flourishing marketplaces set up on mosque grounds. Such marketplaces, which are known by the name of the mosque that they are located next to, sell Korans, prayer beads and religious books as well as sacralized profane goods such as Islamic pop music tapes, CDs and romance novels, bright colored clocks with lights and a picture of Kaba in Mecca, landscape paintings or impressionistic reproductions framed with Koranic calligraphy, and many other items including stickers, posters, key-chains, coloring books, calenders, greeting cards, decorative items in brass, copper, silver, ceramic, wood, all decorated with Islamic symbols, pictures, or calligraphy. Next to a stall selling pictures of Kaba surrounded by pilgrims one can find a stall of natural productsCherbs, herbal teas, shampoos, soaps, herbal medicine, natural foodsCthat would be typically sold in organic/natural/health stores in Europe. Islamic moderns appear to claim both the natural and the traditional: cuisine, home made objects, an almost lost ancient form of art, ebru (marbling), Ottoman culture and history, social practices such as taking home made food to sick neighbors and friends, going to kaplica (health spas associated with old/local culture) and alternative tourism (going to the mountains). Even at the Caprice hotel, the cafT serves herbal teas made from actual leaves rather than the more common teabags.

While interested in reviving the traditional, the Islamist moderns are not traditional at all. Consider, for instance, the consumption practices of a 32 years old turbaned female, wife of a member of the parliament from the Islamist Party, who had lived in Jeddah for 9 years:

I recently bought a microwave, an Imperial from Miele. I liked its functions, it is beautiful and the manual is good. [when inquired about a Turkish brand, Artelik] It is good maybe, but I am not used to it. Artelik’s quality is getting better than before. Before it was not nice, I did not like it. [talking about appliances] I prefer first general Electric then Miele then Bosch. I could not find Turkish coffee in Jeddah so I started to drink Nescafe in the morning.Also my husband. Normally everyone drinks tea [in Turkey] in the morning but in our home we drink Nescafe, orange juice, tea or milk. We don’t drink tea every morning. I am used to buying foreign clothes. For my children I always bought from Mother Care. Marks and Spencer. I prefer to buy from England or Germany, because I use it for a long time. But we also have good brands, I can buy from here, my son wears Waikiki, a French brand, made in Turkey. My scarves, those I usually use at night or when I go outside, are Hermes. ... For underwear, I first go to Marks and Spencer then I look at other places. European clothes are classic, in Turkey fashion changes more quickly. Fashion is very important here, but not for me. ... I buy jewelry and gold when I have a chance to go to Italy or Jeddah. Because it is different.

Many such turbaned women are seen in tennis courts, on the ski slopes, playing volleyball or doing aerobics, or heard talking about dieting. Increasing numbers of them have professional careers and drive to work in their own cars. To be able to work in public offices or attend universities, some wear a wig, made by hairdressers specialized in making customized turban-covering wigs. Some go on a holiday with their female friends leaving children at home with their husbands. They dress in their stylish clothes as they go out together with their female friends to have fun, dancing to Shakira, Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez, or belly dancing to popular Turkish songs.

The embourgeoisement of the Islamists becomes particularly vocal in the domain of fashion. As the Turkish textile industry developed rapidly in the 1980s, clothing businesses also grew in the Islamic sector. The rise of political Islam fostered the demand for headscarves, overcoats and other clothing items. The initial uniformity in Islamic attire, which was characterized by the turban and the accompanying loose-fitting long overcoat, gradually transformed into heterogeneity in the dressing style, signaling the raising fashion consciousness especially among the upper class, urban, well-educated, young religious women. In Unkapani district of Istanbul, an entire shopping center, catering only to the covered women emerged. Many of these shops, which are known as tesettnr (dress that complies with Islam) stores, have brand names that evoke Islam, such as "Tevhid" (unity under one God), "Ihvan" (Muslim brotherhood," and "Hak" (one of the names of God).

The most famous and controversial of these shops is "Tekbir Giyim," which translates as the "Allah is Great Apparel." Since opening its first shop in 1983, Tekbir Giyim developed into a multinational company, transforming its brand name into "The World’s Trademark in Covered Women’s Clothing." [Company logo.] It gradually expanded from supplying clothing to tarikat members to providing fashionable Islamic clothing to people who can afford to pay the high price. Cleverly enough, Tekbir Giyim targeted the upper class religious women, who were active in professional life and developing a taste for fashion and brand names as much as like their secular counterparts. The company’s motto was to make covering beautiful, and change the image of Islamic style dressing as unappealing and uniform. So did it. Mixing Islamic aspirations with a capitalist ambition, Tekbir Giyim utilizes all the tools of fashion marketing to reach to its target segment. To get inspirations for new designs, Tekbir stylists follows the fashion trends of Turkey and of the West. They develop models named after famous covered Turkish women. They aggressively publicize their clothing line through fashion shows, catalogues and newspaper advertisements. Fashion shows, which draw significant media attention on the part of both secularists and Islamists, feature famous Turkish models who present the company’s attire in a podium animated by artificially produced clouds, projecting lights and music. Models, whose only made-up faces are uncovered, sell covered women’s clothes as beautifully and eloquently as they do so when they normally exhibit underwear, bathing suits and westernized cloths to the secular upper classes (for a detailed description of a Tekbir fashion show, see Navaro-Yashin forthcoming).


While Tekbir Giyim promotes itself as the "fashion source of the Islamic high-society" (Kas 1999), many Islamist moderns find its designs to be too dressy and ornate, and prefer more "modern," "sporty," "youthful," and "tasteful" clothes. They shop in "normal" stores where secularist moderns shop, ranging from mid-priced to exclusive designer stores. They window shop to familiarize themselves with the latest fashion trends even though they cannot buy many of these items because they are too tight, too open, too short, too transparentCsimply not appropriate. If they cannot find a suitable outfit, they go to a tailor. A major complaint is the difficulty of finding clothes that they both like and can wear: modern, casual, fashionable yet sensitive to Islam. For example, a 35 year old woman, not able to find a suitable two-piece suit, described to us how she spent days searching for pieces that would make a matching set. In another instance we observed a turbaned woman in her mid twenties shopping with her friend in a clothing store. She adored a mustard colored sleeveless top that came with a button down fishnet sweater. As she sighed desperately thinking that she cannot wear it, her friend suggested that if she bought a long sleeved blouse of the same color, she could. She found a tight t-shirt of the same color and ended up purchasing both the sweater and the t-shirt.

For many Islamist women forming an ensemble of clothes and accessories is indeed a very laborious act. The most arduous search is for scarves, as these women own 30, 40, or even 100 scarves. All women complain about the difficulty of finding scarves that are harmonious with the colors and styles of their clothes. The upscale prefer Hermes, Dior, Gucci, Vakko (a prestigious Turkish brand), or Aker (a prestigious Turkish Islamist brand). The advertisements of Aker and numerous other tesettnr brands often portray unturbaned models with fashionable dresses. The styles promoted through Islamic fashion shows, company catalogues, and television and newspaper advertisements for tesettnr brands as well as clothes worn by anchorwomen of the Islamist television channels provide inspiration to the turbaned women for the clothes they wear daily on the city streets, resorts, and offices. But that inspiration is not always easy to act upon. For Islamist moderns, the search is for clothes that are loose enough not to show the contours of the body but not too loose to be shapeless and outdated: religiously acceptable and modest yet tasteful, stylish and modern. What they aspire to have is a look that is aesthetically pleasing and refined yet does not draw carnal attention.

In contrast to 1980s’ uniform style, 1990s are characterized by variety in Islamic style dressing with more elegant, stylish and trendy clothes becoming increasingly visible. The standard long overcoat of the 1980s is now perceived by the Islamist moderns as the tasteless "grandmother’s overcoat." The normative long, dark colored overcoat and large scarves, covering the head, the neck, the shoulders and the bosom, yielded to colorful, stylized pants and long jackets, skirts and blazers, long vests, above-the-knee coats, and smaller more tightly tied scarves placed inside the jacket. Denim jackets, vests, skirts, shirts, overcoats as well as jeans are commonly worn. More casual, modern, distinctive, and youthful designs are sought and purchased both by the young and the middle-aged women. As these women turn away from the long overcoat to designer brands and stylish cuts, to compliment their overall modern look, they also switch from the locally produced "faithful" perfumesCperfumes that do not contain alcohol and have religiously inspired brand names such as "Friday Wind"Cto imported foreign brands of perfumes.

Clothes worn at home and outside vary. Shorts, mini skirts, tight tops, sexy lingerie are regarded to be appropriate to wear in the private space. Yet, in the public spaces, one can easily come across to turbaned women wearing tight long skirts with slits up to the thighs, very tight tops under transparent shirts or jackets, sexy high-heels or trendy platform shoes accompanied by high-fashion handbags. ShoesCtrendy sandals worn on bare feet or fashionable and sexy high-heels worn under the long overcoatsCare very perceptible to the eyes. In the all-female swimming pool at the Caprice Hotel, we observed women flaunting their fashionable bikinisCsome of them with the trendy little wraps around the waistCwhile a few were sunbathing in swimsuits worn over knee-length tights and one in a ha?ema (a two-piece swimming outfit that fully covers the body). To much of our surprise, there were even a few topless sunbathers.

However, not all Islamists enjoy the stylish clothes, Islamic fashion shows, beauty and fitness centers, and five-star hotels, and complain about the lack of Islamic fashion magazines, designers, and attractive clothes that comply with the Islamic codes. Some Islamists condemn these developments, arguing that they indicate the lack of a thorough internalization of Islam and, hence, the lack of true faith. For instance, observing that heavily made-up models who are famous for displaying sexy lingerie or swimsuits also display tesettnr clothes, a female Islamist sociologist comments that Islamic fashion shows do not Islamicize fashion, but rather turn Islam into a show (Yeni ?afak 1999, p.8). According to a columnist writing in an Islamic newspaper, Vakit, the fashion shows are approved by Muslims "who [have] submitted to the hegemony of capitalist relations of business" and "if you were to knock the consumerist practice of fashion shows over, the capitalist building would be destroyed" (+zdnr 1994, p.4).

In the 1980s, the Islamists sought to differentiate themselves from the secularists by adopting a uniform Islamic dressing style and making it increasingly visible in the public domain. At the core of the distinction was, and still is, the opposition between religious sensitivity and secularist immodesty. Now, however, the initially homogeneous Islamic identity appears to be fragmented, as various segments of the Islamists attempt to differentiate themselves from each other. Symbolically enough, the struggle for difference finds its loudest expression in the creative and eclectic world of fashion. Some Islamists dress in a "modern" and "urban" style, and try to distance themselves from the conventional "rural" image of Islamic attire. Others perceive the long, loose overcoat accompanied by a large turban covering the shoulders and the bosom as "tasteless," "unnecessarily conservative," and "passT" and, instead, seek a "tasteful," "casual," and "youthful" style. They want to be "just like the rest of us [secularists]" but with "religious sensitivity". They repeatedly comment that except for the turban and less revealing cuts, they wear whatever the secularists wear. The Islamist newly rich, on the other hand, wear stylish turbans and lavish designer clothes to set themselves apart from the poorer faithful. Yet, others consider the Islamist newly-riches’ interest in international brands such as Gucci and Versace and their gaudy styles as flaunting and exaggerated, and favor unpretentious refinement and simplicity as opposed to their pretentious style.


The rise of Islam is generally seen as an opposition to globalization and Western consumerism (Barber 1996; G÷le 1996; Witkowski 1999). For instance, in his book Orientalism, Postmodernism and Globalism, Brian Turner devotes an entire chapter t convince his readers that "consumerism offers or promises a range of possible lifestyles which compete with, and in many cases, contradict the uniform lifestyle demanded by Islamic fundamentalism" (1994, p.90). According to Turner the cultural, aesthetic and stylistic pluralism fostered by postmodernism and the spread of global system of consumption contradicts with the fundamentalist commitment to a unified world organized around incontrovertibly true values and beliefs. While "the consumer market threatens to break out into a new stage of fragmented postmodernity in late capitalism," fundamentalism "acts as a brake on the historical development of world capitalism" (Turner 1994, p.80). From a different perspective, but in a similar vein, Bocock (1993) suggests that religion can provide an alternative to overcome the consumerist ideology.

However, Islam, at least in the context of Turkey, does not seem to oppose consumption or offer an alternative to consumerism. The more ascetic and orthodox Muslims do restrict their consumption, but most do notCthey actively engage in consumption albeit in an Islamic way. As the Turkish case demonstrates consumption patterns can be and are appropriated into religiously acceptable styles without undermining consumption itself. This is more so in the case of Islam for which hedonism is an accepted way to life and is less of a sin than Christianity. Islam permits the pursuit of desires as long as they are integrated with moral principles such as generosity, sharing, giving to the poor, and fairness, and one is not enslaved by passionate attachment (Belk, Ger and Askegaard forthcoming). Islam accepts that material things are important in life. However, it requires that acquisitiveness and competition are balanced by fair play and compassion. That is, material goods are to be distributed and wealth is to be shared among all in a just manner. Being honest, fulfilling commitments, seeking virtue, providing for dependents generously, and being socially conscious legitimize consumption. Historically, religious (and secular) ethics in Turkey, in line with the teachings of Islam, have reinforced consumption for pleasure, practiced along with the principles of generosity and fairness (_lgener 1981).

As much as the consumption practices of the Islamists challenge the conventional view of Islam as a value system that categorically opposes consumerism and Westernism, the fashion practices of Islamist women contradict the common conceptions of female body and identity within Islam. The discourse of colonial feminism views Islam as innately oppressive to women. The turban and the covering of women’s bodies represent the seclusion and segregation of women, and women’s subordination to the masculine power. This discourse places an unwarranted significance on the "modern" outlook of women while constructing the covered woman as a symbol of backwardness and as an obstacle to civilization. In this Orientalist narrative, the turbaned woman epitomizes the exotic as well as the threatening Other of the West. Internalizing the oriental discourse, the Turkish republican ideology similarly perceives the turbaned women as a threat to modernity and Western lifestyle (Witkowski 1999).

The diverse fashion practices of urban turbaned women in contemporary Turkey imply highly complex and multi-layered identity dynamics and politics that go well beyond a dichotomous Orientalist reading. The newly emergent urban, middle-class turbaned women do not simply differentiate themselves from the Westernized, secular Turkish women; they equally distance themselves from the traditional Islamic women who wear a headscarf out of habit in rural areas and small towns and from the newly-rich Islamists. They reject both the image of covering as a sign of cultural backwardness and as a sign of extravagance and flaunting. At a broader level, the Islamist consumptionscape evinces the emergence of an Islamic elite seeking to ascertain itself as an alternative to the secular elite that has traditionally been dominant in the public space. Drawing both from Islam and local cultural resources, this elite crafts new consumption practicesCmodern, casual and trendy cothes, natural goods, traditional cuisine, Ottoman culture and artifacts, alternative vacation and traveling, books, intellectual debates, educational programs and documentaries on Islamic television channelsCand attempts to differentiate itself from the secularist moderns, the Islamist newly-rich and the habitually religious lower classes.

Today’s Islamist consumptionscape is characterized by pluralism and difference, and cannot be explained as either rejection of consumerism, capitalism and globalization or resistance to modernity. Struggle over identity between secularists and Islamists as well as among different groups of Islamists is strongly implicated in the domain of consumption and is constantly transformed as a result of various local and global dynamics and forces. Similar to their secular counterparts, different groups of Islamists, located in various habituses, seek to construct distinct identities for themselves by adopting or rejecting particular consumption practices. Although the resultant consumption practices resonate the processes of "creolization" or "hybridization" we believe neither terms sufficiently explain them.

Creolization refers to the meeting and mingling of meanings and meaningful forms from disparate sourcesCold and new, foreign/global and localCand reflects the dialectics of adoption and resistance (Ger and Belk 1996, Hannerz 1992, Howes 1996). Ger and Belk (1996) report that consumptionscapes of less affluent societies, including Turkey, are characterized by creolized consumption more than other alternatives, such as emulation of the West, return to roots, resistance to the West, or recontextualization. They argue that creolization incorporates the other alternatives and offer a new synthesis which help individuals to differentiate themselves in the social hierarchy.

Similar to creolization, hybridity rejects the notion of total domination (i.e., the West dominating the East) and, instead, emphasizes the interaction between different parties. According to Homi Bhabha, in contrast to Said’s static dichotomy between the Occident and the Orient, Western culture never totally dominates other cultures because resistance through "translation" operates at the intersection of two. "Cultural translation" occurs when one "statement" travels from one specific cultural context to another, creating "a new statement", or "the difference of the same" (Bhabha 1994, p.22). Translation creates a hybrid identity as the eastern and western cultures transgress each other’s boundaries and constantly negotiate the borderline cultures where plural voices speak out.

While creolization and hybridization emphasize the complex and dynamic interaction between opposing cultural resourcesCWestern and Eastern, global and local, old and new, traditional and contemporaryCand avoid binary explanations, they both fail to acknowledge the creation of multiple internal Others as a side-effect. Identity is always relational and cannot be totally indeterminate if it exists as a part of the symbolic order whose purpose is to fix some meaning. The creolized or hybrid identity also needs its own Other(s) as its boundary-marker, and in doing so, attempts to secure its distance from elements differing in terms of social class, cultural capital, political beliefs, etc. What we observe in the Islamic consumptionscape cannot be viewed only as mixing or transformation of the local with the global elements. New consumption patterns emerge as consumers negotiate various tesions both between the local and the global and within the local itself. Constructing a "modern" Islamic identity within the local power network involves simultaneously negotiating multiple tensionsCthe tensions between the West and the East, the secular and the religious, the urban and the rural, the elite religious and the lower class or newly-rich religious, the urban religious and the rural religiousCand distancing itself from various internal Others.

Multi-layered and multi-tensional meaning transformations and translations go well beyond a mere mixing of existing forms, a mere pastiche devoid of identity politics. Endlessly reformulated, transformed, inverted, subverted, diverted, rejected, domesticated, exoticized, and reinvented grammars, scripts, settings, objects, and meanings blend into new ensembles. Rather than an "Escher etching" [Howes= analogy; 1996, p.6.] this fused ensemble is an Escheresque social practice whose full meaning emerges from its union "with actors and audience at a given moment in a group’s ongoing social process" (Turner 1986, 24, italics ours). We propose the term fusion to refer to the reconciliation of diverse dialectical forms and tensions, and to the resultant transformed forms in new social formations. We believe that Escheresque fusions, in fashion and consumption, characterize the Turkish Islamist modernity. With various oppositions taming and transforming each other, the "faithful chic" paradoxically upholds the ideals about modern identity albeit its postmodern plurality, and opens up a theoretical space for the consumer behavior researchers to explore.


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Ozlem Sandikci, Bilkent University
Guliz Ger, Bilkent University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28 | 2001

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Featured papers

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When products become autonomous: Drawbacks of a perceived lack of control and how to resolve it

Moritz Joerling, RWTH Aachen University
Robert Böhm, RWTH Aachen University
Stefanie Paluch, RWTH Aachen University

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A8. Do You Accept The Terms And Conditions? The Role Of Trust And Hedonic Content On Self-Disclosure To Apps

Carla Freitas Silveira Netto, UFRGS
Simoni F Rohden, UFRGS
Marina de Wallau Lugoch, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS)
Natalia Englert, UFRGS
Valentina Ortiz Ubal, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS)

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Digital Storytelling and Post-Trust Online Sperm Marketing

Jennifer Takhar, Institut Supérieur de Gestion, Paris, France.
Laetitia Mimoun, HEC Paris, France

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